France Bans the Burka: Progressive or Offensive?

Kerry Pieri

France might be pushing it with the laws of fashion. The government has officially banned burkas, and as you may imagine, it’s not going over well. Protests have already begun against the burka ban, which resulted in 59 arrests in Paris on Saturday, including 19 women who were wearing the veilsthough they were arrested for protesting in this instance, not for wearing burkas… yet. Breaking the actual law, which officially went into action today, means facing a fine of approximately $216 US dollars for offenders, but $140,000 US dollars for “men who force their wives or daughters to wear burkas,” along with a year in prison, according to the Telegraph.

French police are enforcing the new law “extremely cautiously” because of fears of provoking violence, the newspaper reports. With 6 million Muslims in the country and the presence of extremists, they have good reason. Although, outside of the threat of violence, the new law may just be bad for business.

Wealthy visitors from countries like Saudi Arabia most likely won’t take well to the arguably ethnocentric ban. Patrice Ribeiro, of the Synergie police union, told the Telegraph that the law will be difficult to execute, for instance, when, “a police officer is about to arrest a veiled Saudi who is about to go into Louis Vuitton on the Champs Elysees. In all cases, the forces of order will have to be measured and cautious in their behaviour.” So more cautious when offending someone with luxury tastes and the money to buy rather than, say, a poor Muslim?

There are limitations. Muslims will be allowed to wear burkas in Mosques, in their own homes, hotel rooms and cars (if they’re not the driver).

I feel torn on this issue because I do believe that burkas are an antiquated, oppressive practice that only women are subjected to, which I don’t think has a place in free societies. However, it also seems pompous of a country to force its beliefs about a religion and its practices on 6 million people. With that said, I do dig the part where men get fined more and go to jail for forcing their wives and daughters to wear the veils it should be a choice, not an edict.

Photo: Richard Burbridge, Vogue Italia

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